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Has This Passage Ever Bothered You?
2 Peter 1:10 - Assurance Based on Works?
by Bob Wilkin
I recently received a request to discuss 2 Peter 1:10. A reader
is hard to avoid the conclusion that
[based on 2 Peter 1:10] assurance of salvation is to be based
upon works . . .
Can you shed any light on this matter?"
The verse reads: "Therefore, brethren, be all the more
diligent to make
certain about His calling and choosing
you; for as long as you practice these
things, you will never stumble."
What must a person do to have this
"certainty"? The context makes it clear
that one must "practice these things"
(2 Peter 1:10) - that is, he must live a
godly life (2 Peter 1:5-8). It is an unmistakable conclusion that
in question here is conditioned upon
The key to understanding this verse,
then, is unlocking the meaning of the
word translated "certain". Fortunately
the term is used again by Peter in 2
Peter 1:19 (except that there it is in the
comparative form, that is, there it has
a suffix which adds the sense of "more"
to its meaning). In that verse Peter
speaks of the prophetic word having
been made "more sure." What does he
mean? Were the Old Testament
prophecies regarding Christ's Second
Coming uncertain and less than sure
before that point? No, of course not.
In verses 16-18 Peter was referring to
the transfiguration of Jesus which he
witnessed on the Mount of Transfiguration. Verse 19 thus means
Mount of Transfiguration experience
"further verifies" or "more
fully demonstrates" the Old Testament
prophecies regarding the second coming of the Messiah, His coming
and reign in glory. The certainty never
changed, but the amount of evidence
Therefore, verse 10 actually means
something like this: "be all the more
diligent to demonstrate His calling and
choosing you. . ." Showing others that
we are saved, not personal assurance,
is Peter's point. We demonstrate our
new nature to others by living a godly
life. However, we know that we are
saved on the basis of the Scriptures'
promise that whoever believes in Jesus
Christ as his Savior has eternal life (e.g.,
John 3:16; 5:24; Romans 5:1; 8:38-39;
I John 5:11-13).
Imagine that you owned a house but
had lost the deed. Until you were able
to obtain a copy of the deed you would
be unable to demonstrate or verify that
you owned the house. Did you own it?
Yes. However, there is a difference between possessing something
able to demonstrate that it is yours.
Such is the case with eternal life. We
have eternal life by grace through faith.
We demonstrate the eternal life of God
within us by exhibiting a life of moral
excellence and godliness.
What if a believer fails to be diligent
in developing a godly character? Then
he will fall (v. 10b) and he will not obtain
an abundant entrance into the eternal
kingdom (v.11). All believers will enter
the kingdom. However, only faithful
ones will have a special abundance of
life eternally (cf. I Peter 5:4; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2
Matthew 6:19-21). God has given us the
power to obey Him. Oh, that we might
apply that power to please Him now.
The degree to which we do so will determine how abundant our
eternal experience will be.
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